Emma Ketteringham Presented Testimony at Hearing on Family Involvement in the Child Welfare and Family Court Systems

Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families

Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues

November 21, 2019 

Hearing on Family Involvement in the Child Welfare and Family Court Systems

Written Testimony of The Bronx Defenders By

Emma S. Ketteringham, Managing Director, Family Defense Practice

Muriel Bell, Policy Advocate, Family Defense Practice

Miriam Mack, Policy Counsel, Family Defense Practice

Thank you for convening this hearing on family separation by the child welfare system, one of the most important and pressing issues in New York State. Similar to over policing and mass incarceration, New York’s child welfare system is unequally applied, largely targeting poor families, the majority of which are Black and Latinx. Every year in New York State, approximately 8,760 children are separated from their families and placed in foster care. Many more families are placed under court-ordered supervision. Contrary to popular narratives, the vast majority of the parents of children in the system have not hurt, abandoned, or abused their children. Rather, they face the loss of their children for reasons of poverty or because they are experiencing a condition created and/or exacerbated by multigenerational poverty and structural inequality, such as a lack of stable and adequate housing or income, lack of access to medical or child care, a substance use disorder, or a mental health condition. Rather than addressing the social deficits, economic inequality, and structural racism that plagues families in the child welfare system, the system responds with child removal, family separation and therapeutic services. The harm of family separation cannot be underestimated; the trauma produced by family separation is long lasting and reverberates across generations and communities. The child welfare system, the harms it imposes, and its inadequacy at addressing the issues experienced by families that are struggling should not be ignored any longer. We encourage New York State in taking the lead to change how families are supported by the state and appreciate the opportunity to testify today.

Watch the full testimony starting at 4:09:00 here

Read the full testimony here